Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daniel Martin Moore Sheds Some Light On "In The Cool Of The Day"

Before I even played In The Cool Of The Day I was in love with the idea behind it: Mr. Moore was going to be revisiting gospel numbers and spirituals from his younger years by memory, while re-arranging, and re-contextualizing them from his own perspective as an adult. It's a record that I just haven't been able to stop talking up since I first listened to it, and have been returning to often.

Mr. Moore delivers gently sweeping melodies with subtly shifting arrangements that add a new level of unexpectedness to tunes commonly referred to as "gospel". Regardless of one's religious faith or following, or to the degree of one's beliefs, this is an album that covers a lot of ground in atmosphere and feeling. Uplifting, moving, somber, reflective, and yes- lots to believe in.

I recently had the opportunity to briefly discuss In The Cool Of The Day with Mr. Moore himself.

Can you describe your inspiration for In The Cool Of The Day?

Daniel Martin Moore:
It started out as a collection of informal recordings for my family.  Me and Dan Dorff were going to do some piano and guitar versions of our favorite hymns and give them away to our families for Christmas. As I started thinking about arrangements, the scope grew and grew.

How did you select the traditional songs for the collection?

DMM: They're songs that I grew up with, and songs that my family loves.

When you were revisiting the spirituals from your childhood to record for this album, what was your process of re-imagining and re-arranging these songs now?

DMM: I suppose it started with imagining who I wanted to play on the song, and then figuring out how to weave it together from there. So often the ensemble would dictate how the songs would be, and a lot of the arrangements stem from how I've been singing them to myself over the years.

When you're singing a song to yourself, you can do just about anything you want with it, you know.  There are no bounds. If you want strings, there are strings. If you want harmony vocals, there they are.  Faster? Slower? It's all automatic. So I didn't feel obligated to do them a certain way.

Can you describe an instance, or instances while working on the album where your recent adult experiences inspired you to not just cover a song, but to look upon it with fresh eyes and ears, but shape it into something new for you?

DMM: That's the heart of the whole album. Each of these songs is reinterpreted from the way I originally learned them.

What was your own process of writing original spirituals for the album? Did you begin with any of the chosen spirituals as inspiration?

DMM: I can't say I set out to write any certain types of songs. It's always a mystery to me when I end up with a song, and these all came along the same way.

Do you see a difference in your own songwriting process when writing spirituals as opposed to non-spiritual material?

DMM: It's all the same, I feel.

What was the most rewarding experience of writing, recording, and composing this album?

DMM: My favorite part of the process is always getting to spend time with everyone involved and working together on the album. Working with people you love and admire makes for a beautiful experience.

I have really enjoyed the variety of instrumentation and arrangements found on In The Cool Of The Day. Can you discuss your recording process and writing process for the arrangements?

Most of the arrangements were figured beforehand, but there were some spontaneous things, like Dan's piano solo on "In The Garden" for example. He didn't even know we were rolling when he played that.  As far as the "sound" of the album, it just seemed natural to keep things paired down and spare.

Can you describe how you see the trajectory of your recorded work? From Stray Age to Dear Companion (with Ben Sollee) to In The Cool Of The Day?

DMM: Hopefully it's growing more personal all the time, but I can't say, as I've ever put much thought to it.  I've tried to do things as I've been able. I think collaboration has been a recurring theme, though, and I'm proud of that.

Who are your biggest influences?

DMM: My family, Jean Ritchie, Lightnin Hopkins, Charles Mingus, and Tu Fu.

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